The calendar this year means that if you receive or collect your magazine as soon as it comes out you will be reading this at the beginning of Holy Week, and so I want to begin this letter by encouraging you to come to as many of our Holy Week services and events as you can.
All that we do in Holy Week is designed to help us to walk the Way of the Cross, staying close to the great story of our faith: entering more deeply into the love and suffering of Jesus and understanding more of what it means for us as individuals and as God’s people here in this place. Quiet contemplation, reflective and joyful contemplation as we share the Passover meal, the re-enactment of the Last Supper with foot washing and an all-night vigil in the Garden of Gethsemane: all of these lead us to the foot of the cross, the silence and bewilderment that follows and at last, as we light the fire at dawn on Easter Day, to the joy of the resurrection and new life in and with Christ. If you’ve never been to any of these services and you’re worried they might not be for you or would like to know more about what happens please do contact me: there are few things I like to talk about more!
A particular joy this year is that Holy Week marks the opening of a new phase in the life of our parish, as Chuks Iwuagwu begins his ministry with us. Chuks won’t lead a service or preach until after he’s been licensed by the Archdeacon on 15 April – please do come to the service, which is at 730 in St Barts with refreshments afterwards at St Christopher’s – but he will be taking part in other ways and getting to know us during Holy Week as we walk the Way of the Cross together. Chuks and I both feel that there couldn’t be a better start than this to our shared ministry and we are looking forward to all that God has in store for the parish.
As many of you will know, Chuks and Adanna and their two children moved here from Glasgow in mid-March. Chuks has already begun his new job, based in Reading, and I know I speak for all of us in wishing the whole family all the best as they settle in to life in Haslemere. May it become home for them very soon.
Chuks and Adanna are very grateful for the hamper of food and treats which was waiting for them when they arrived at Church Cottage – in fact, although the hamper was at the heart of it, the gifts spread over most of the work surface and filled the fridge! Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to this part of our welcome. Generosity on a wider scale has been part of our thinking for the last few months as our stewardship season has run its course. You may recall that, on the basis of last year’s income, we are predicting a shortfall of up to £24,000 this year and so we asked you to consider whether you could increase your planned giving or begin to give. I’m delighted to say that we have received additional pledges worth £7500, including the gift aid. This is excellent news – thank you so much – but as you will see there is still a considerable distance to go! So if you are still thinking about what you might do, or if you took a pledge form home with every intention of filling it in but simply haven’t got round to it (I know exactly how this can happen!), please do act now so that the new PCC will know where it stands when it meets in May after the APCM (do come to that – see elsewhere in the magazine for details) and can make plans accordingly. There is information about our financial situation in the Filling the Jars leaflets, available in the churches, or please speak to me or one of the wardens.
Finally: on Passion Sunday, after preaching a sermon exploring how we can respond to the costly love of Jesus, I came home to find that a friend had posted on his blog the sermon he had just preached and that although we were very much on the same wavelength he had put it far better than I had. It was so good I wanted to share it with you, so here is advice not just for Passiontide but for life, courtesy of the Rev’d Tony Price, Vicar of Marston.
Go home and be quiet. Turn off the noise in your life for a little while. Find something that will help you to pay attention to God. It may be a short passage of scripture, a simple repeated word or prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Or if that’s too long, just the name Jesus. Or the contemplation of something made: a flower, a fruit, a stone, a child. God needs no introduction from me or any preacher: you will know him. He will be found by you, if you seek him with all your heart.
I can’t think of a better way to sign off, wishing you a joyous and blessed Easter, and with the assurance of my prayers: